Anindita Das Talks About Her Debut Book ‘What the Pandemic Learned From Me’

Anindita Das Talks About Her Debut Book ‘What the Pandemic Learned From Me’

Neha Sharma: A warm welcome, Anindita! I am aware that you have won numerous awards & accolades for your previous works and I wish that your new journey (that of an author) brings countless more your way. How did the idea of bringing-out this sweet antidote to the Covid-induced pain strike you?

Anindita Das: Thank you Neha… I did not obviously plan on writing this book and it just happened in the span of a month – March or towards the end of the first wave of Covid. I began writing initially to distract myself from all that was going on, to bring myself a sense of calm and nurse my own sanity. Slowly, it took on a life of its own, and I thought why not give people like me something to read. It could be a great way to take a break from all the doom scrolling happening on social media, and the dark ominous mood everywhere in general.

Agreed that we can’t control everything that was happening, but some light-hearted reading therapy, that’s something I could do, and that’s something everyone cooped inside their homes, running out of distraction tactics needed, isn’t it?

Neha Sharma: Once struck with the idea, what was your next step towards writing the manuscript of ‘What The Pandemic Learned From Me’?

Anindita Das: I had to make time for it! That was the most important thing because it obviously would not make any sense to publish a book like this after several months or even a year, it would defeat the entire point of it. It had to be done quickly so people could make the most of it during their lockdown days or right after. So, while juggling office work and all the household chores that are part of lockdown reality, I sort of had to muster the energy and enthusiasm for writing a book to a steep deadline. There were days I wished that there were more hours in a day so I could give more time to the book, and there were days it was too difficult to process all the grief around and get myself to write a single happy word. So, I deliberately stopped watching news, gave up obsessive tracking of statistics, and cut out all toxic things, except when I needed a specific information.

Then came the task of educating myself about the publishing process, I soon found that opinions were divided on how to go about it. I obviously couldn’t afford to wait for 3 long months while I figured a traditional publisher. The whole process was illuminating to say the least.

Neha Sharma: Your writing style comes across as fresh-to-read. It would be interesting to know, how do you deal with writer’s block?

Anindita Das: Writer’s block is part and parcel of every writer’s life – whether you are an author, an advertising copywriter, a feature writer, or a content creator. In my career spanning over 12 years, I have learned one thing, there’s no avoiding it, the more you try to avoid, the more it sort of clings to you. So, the only thing to do is to embrace it as part of the process. When you get stuck, don’t get stressed, just take a break. Do the things you enjoy doing, watch a video, read a book, listen to music or anything that stimulates you, and then suddenly, it will come to you. The only thing is, if there’s a deadline lurking around the corner, which is the case for most writers, may the forces that are save you.

Neha Sharma: I am sure there’s a lot to learn from your writing/advertising journey. What would you suggest the writers to keep in mind, if newly trying their hand at humour?

Anindita Das: I think one mustn’t decide on humour or anything else as a given, what you must look for is a fresh idea. Is this idea something people would want to invest their time on, because let’s face it, books are no longer everyone’s chosen form of recreation for lack of a better word. But once you have a great idea, you can choose any treatment or tonality. As far as humour is concerned, my only suggestion is don’t force it, use it if it comes naturally to you. And you need to identify your style of humour, like everyone has a personal sense of humour. Don’t try and write like the author you really love, write it like you.

Neha Sharma: Any other writing-tip, general advice or life-lesson you would like to share with today’s aspiring writers? May be, how to come-up with catchy titles, sub-titles or simply one-liners?

Anindita Das: You out there, you will know if there’s a writer hiding in you. You just need to come out of your little hidey hole and put yourself out there for the world to see you. Quit with the overthinking already, everything else will fall into place eventually. As for the little voices in your head telling you so many things, you need to hush a few of them, and listen to the ones that matter.

Neha Sharma: How did your community (friends, family, etc.) respond to the release of your debut book?

Anindita Das: Everyone, right from my family, friends and co-workers have been extremely supportive about it. Considering the fact, I did not share my intention of writing a book with anyone. My mother called and informed me that she has in fact congratulated me on Facebook, and any over-the-top outbursts that I might be storing for the future is totally unwarranted. My partner dutifully bore the brunt of my more-than-usual-crazy-writer- insecurities, got me my first WhatsApp orders, while many forgotten friendships were rekindled when signed author copies (which still haven’t arrived) were demanded. Jokes apart, a few friends and industry seniors have been kind enough to find time amidst their busy schedules and pandemic worries to be my advance readers and share their honest feedback as well.

But what’s been immensely fulfilling for me as writer is that readers who are complete strangers have come across the book and are really appreciating it. Be it through emails or direct messages. These are early days still, but the response has been great so far.

Neha Sharma: What is your most treasured memory from the process of writing and getting this book published?

Anindita Das: The most treasured memory has to be finalising the name and the cover design of the book. It felt great to see my name on it.

Neha Sharma: What if some day you could meet in real, the addressees of the letters compiled in this book?

Anindita Das: That would be quite something, won’t it be? I think I will have to get them all amicably drunk while I quietly observe them and take more sober mental notes. Maybe we’ll even get one picture clicked ‘The Last Supper’ style, and despite our differences, by the end of it, I bet, we will all be good friends again!

Neha Sharma: How do you manage time to write while balancing it with your career in advertising?

Anindita Das: I have never been a morning person, though my most productive hours are in the morning. So, I would start early, write for one or two hours and then jump to office work. Then I would resume with research and other stuff post work. At bedtime, I would often either be thinking of a new script for a brand or a new chapter for the book. Let’s just say, my nights have been peppered with many confusing dreams.

The other trouble I faced was that I was constantly writing or thinking, whether it was for brand work or for my book. At the core of it, there was essentially no difference in the two things, and so mentally, there was no break either.

Having interacted with many authors in the last few months, I have realized that it is important to have a writing routine, no matter how less time you are able to devote to it. It may not be as rigorous as Haruki Murakami’s routine who is believed to write for 5-6 hours starting at 4am. I tried to create a semblance of a writing routine, though I must admit, I haven’t been entirely successful at it.

Neha Sharma:What The Pandemic Learned From Me‘ looks like a stupendous kickstart to your journey as an author. Around when can the readers expect you to announce the next title; is it in process or yet to start?

Anindita Das: There are a couple of ideas floating in my head, and I did start working on one. But honestly, it is too early to comment on it, and I want to take it slow this time. It’s going to be a fiction novel and of course, it will be garnished off with the right amount of humour.

Neha Sharma: Thank you for your precious time and efforts to make this interview happen. Wish you all the best for your present as well as future endeavours.

Anindita Das: Thank you so much Neha for having me. The pleasure was all mine.

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